U’khand disaster: Glacier burst in winter? Scientists to probe sabotage angle

A team of DRDO’S Defence Geoinformatics Research Establishment (DGRE) is heading for Joshimath to study the exact cause of the glacier burst that triggered flash floods in Uttarakhand on Sunday, reports The Week –

“The floods, which took place after a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in the Tapovan area, near the Bharat-China border, have left up to 150 feared dead and damaged multiple locations including a hydropower plant in the region. Rescue efforts are underway as many are feared trapped under the Tapovan tunnel.

But, scientists monitoring glaciers and avalanches in the region are surprised as they say glacier bursts do not take place in winters. Defence scientists say that a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF), a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails, is a near impossibility under present climatic conditions: The area is surrounded by snow-capped mountains with temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius.

“During winters, glaciers are formed as snow doesn’t melt due to the negative temperature. To my understanding, glacier burst in this season is next to impossible. I haven’t studied such an incident in the last 50 years,” said a defence scientist, who added that the exact cause can be established after studying satellite images.

Without ruling out the possibility of sabotage, defence scientists indicate that several militaries in the world use mountain resources as a weapon to hit enemy territory.

The Rishiganga hydropower project near Raini village in Uttarakhand was damaged, as was NTPC’s under-construction project on the river Dhauli Ganga near Tapovan, according to an official. And, according to a source in the defence establishment, it could be an attempt to hit the key power project—as a blast in the glacier can be triggered from a distance as well.

DRDO’S Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) works in avalanche forecasting, artificial triggering and structural control in snowbound mountainous regions. After the recent restructuring of DRDO, it was merged with the Defence Terrain Research Laboratory in and is now called the Defence Geoinformatics Research Establishment. A DGRE team will be moved to the accident side by IAF helicopters to study the event.”

Meanwhile, the state police tweeted yesterday that 202 people are missing and 19 dead bodies have been recovered thus far. Most of those missing are workers involved in construction of the power project.

A video shared by ITBP shows rescue workers pulling out a trapped person from a tunnel near Tapovan.

Around 30 more people are believed to be trapped inside the Tapovan tunnel, and rescue work was underway overnight at the site to take out debris and slush. Thirteen villages are also cut off due to the damage to roads and bridges, and essential food supplies are being sent there by helicopters.

Bharat and China are involved in a tense stand-off at the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in the Ladakh sector since April last year, after Chinese troops violated border protocols by entering disputed areas and building new outposts and other infrastructure. The situation boiled over at Galwan valley in June where hand-to-hand combat between the two Armies claimed the lives of 20 Bharatiya and 35 Chinese soldiers, although China did not officially acknowledge the same.

Bharat has been trying to solve the process by talks but the Chinese side has so far rebuffed any efforts at peace. Skirmishes or tensions between the two Armies have also been reported from Nathu La, Sikkim and at the Arunachal border.

Analysts have been tracking China’s moves on how to weaponise weather and the environment, and the country has a history of waging environmental warfare – probably the largest scale act of environmental warfare was the breaching of the Huang He (Yellow River) levees by the Chinese in 1938 to stop the westward advance of the Japanese. The move caused enormous loss of life as a result of direct flooding, disease, and famine, with death toll at over 800,000. China’s secretive dam-building spree on the Brahmaputra river has also triggered concerns in both Bharat and Bangladesh.

Thus it would not come as a surprise if the Uttarakhand glacier burst turns out to be an act of war by the Communist Party of China, which would have only grown bolder with the advent of a new US President whose son is allegedly embroiled in illegal financial dealings with Chinese businesses, and who has already started reversing some of the tough anti-China moves of the last US administration.


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